The Cleveland Clinic

Caring for Teeth With Braces or Retainers

Braces, wires, springs, rubber bands, and other appliances can attract food and plaque, which can stain your teeth if not brushed away. Most orthodontists recommend brushing after every meal or snack with fluoride toothpaste and carefully removing any food that may have gotten stuck in your braces. Some orthodontists will also prescribe or recommend a fluoride mouthwash, which can get into places in your mouth that a toothbrush can't.

Special Brushing & Flossing Instructions

To floss your teeth, feed the short end of the floss through the space between the main arch wire and the upper portion of the tooth closest to the gum. Use a gentle sawing motion to work the floss on each side of the two teeth the floss is between. Be careful not to pull with too much force around the arch wire. Begin brushing your teeth by using a regular soft toothbrush. Brush down from the top and then up from the bottom on each tooth with braces. Next, brush your teeth with a proxabrush or "Christmas tree" brush. This brush is specially designed for cleaning between two braces. Insert the brush down from the top and then up from the bottom between two braces. Use several strokes in each direction before moving on to the next space between two braces. Repeat the procedure until all teeth have been cleaned.

Foods to Avoid While Wearing Braces

Most of the foods you like can still be eaten if you cut them into small pieces that can be easily chewed. There are certain foods, however, that can break or loosen your braces and should be avoided, such as:

  1. Hard or tough-to-bite foods, such as apples or bagels
  2. Chewy foods, such as taffy or caramels
  3. Corn on the cob
  4. Hard pretzels, popcorn, nuts and carrots

In addition to foods, do not chew ice or bubble gum.

Caring for Retainers

Every time you brush your teeth, brush your retainer as well. Once a day or at least once a week, disinfect your retainer by soaking it in a denture cleanser, such as Efferdent or Polident or other brand name solutions. Add the cleanser to a cup full of warm -- but never hot -- water. Thoroughly rinse the retainer with plain water before placing it back in your mouth.

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